Gladys Gonzalez (she/her)
Gladys is a legal assistant for the Unaccompanied Minors Team in Ypsilanti. She is a graduate of the University of Michigan with an Honors degree in History. She specializes in early 20th-Century American history with a focus on the Constitution, the impact of nationalism, and social justice. She also enjoys art and music. Gladys was born in South Haven, MI to immigrant parents and has since developed a strong sense of justice and protectiveness toward the immigrant community. Her goal is to become an attorney and continue to assist the community through public policy, litigation, and overall human compassion. Gladys is fluent in Spanish.
Gonzalo Peralta (he/him)
Gonzalo Peralta joined the Michigan Immigrants Rights Center on February of 2020. Prior to starting at MIRC, he was an associate attorney for Audrey Allen Immigration Law, LLc practicing immigration law for eight years where he focused and specialized in removal defense. Gonzalo is a Penn State University and Rutgers Law School graduate. Originally from Argentina, Gonzalo is fluent in Spanish. He will be based in the Grand Rapids office focusing on workers’ rights.
Grace Erway (she/her)
Grace Erway is a Paralegal on the Afghan Arrivals Team in Kalamazoo. Originally from Kalamazoo, she recently graduated with her Bachelor's Degree in Anthropology/Sociology from Kalamazoo College and is a proud beneficiary of the Kalamazoo Promise scholarship. In her time at Kalamazoo College she was able to study abroad in Costa Rica and write a research based undergrad thesis, on the history of white supremacy and its presence in migrant related law. In her free time she enjoys traveling, spending time with her family, singing and bartending.
Hannah Lehker (she/her)
Hannah Lehker (she/her) works in the Kalamazoo office as MIRC's Program Administrator, and is a queer, fat, white femme. Hannah started at MIRC as an intern working with migrant and seasonal agricultural workers, before becoming a Legal Assistant for the Unaccompanied Children's Program. These varied roles provided Hannah with insight into many aspects of work at MIRC, preparing her for her current position as a program-wide administrator. Hannah graduated from Kalamazoo College in 2017, with a degree in Spanish and Anthropology/Sociology. She spent six months studying in Valparaíso, Chile, and speaks Spanish. Outside of work hours you are most likely to find Hannah at the beach.
Hannah McGowan (she/her)
Hannah is originally from Nanping, China, but grew up in Iowa. She received her B.A. in Political Science from the University of Iowa. In May of 2022, Hannah received her J.D. from Michigan State University College of Law with a certificate in Child & Family Advocacy. During her time in law school, she primarily focused her studies on family and child welfare law. Hannah served as a student clinician and as an intake coordinator for MSU's Chance at Childhood Clinic, where she advocated for children involved in the court system in a variety of different cases.
Izamar Ortiz (she/her)
Community Referrals Assistant
Izamar is a part of MIRC’s unaccompanied minors team as a Community Referrals legal assistant. She graduated from Hope College in 2015 and is currently pursuing her master’s degree in Clinical Counseling at Aquinas College. She has a deep passion for advocating for families and listening to their needs and concerns. In her free time, she loves meeting new people and learning new languages.
Jaimie Lerner (she/her)
Jaimie Lerner is an attorney with the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center. She works on the Detroit Front Door Team, handling a wide-range of cases before the Immigration Court, State Court, Federal Court, and federal agencies. Prior to joining MIRC in 2021, she served as an Attorney Advisor at the Detroit Immigration Court and as a Judicial Law Clerk for the New York Immigration Court, part of the Executive Office for Immigration Review. She received her J.D. from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law and her B.A. from the University of Michigan. During law school, Jaimie served as a legal intern with the Civil Division of the United States Department of Justice in Washington D.C., as well as a student clinician with the Immigration Justice Clinic and Human Rights and Atrocity Prevention Clinic for Cardozo in New York. As a law student, she was an Assistant Coach and prior competitor for the Cardozo Moot Court Team at the University of Oxford Media Law Competition in Oxford, England, examining international law and freedom of expression concerns.
Jennifer Vanegas (she/her)
Jennifer Vanegas joined the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center in April 2019. Previously, she was a workers' rights attorney at Farmworker Legal Services. During law school, she served as a student attorney with the Washtenaw County Office of Public Defender, WMU-Cooley Innocence Project, and St Vincent Catholic Charities Immigration Law Clinic. Jennifer is a fluent Spanish speaker and graduated from Western Michigan University with a BA in Spanish and minor in Social Work and received her JD from Western Michigan University Cooley Law School. She is based in MIRC's Grand Rapids office and works with unaccompanied children who are in removal proceedings.
Jo Pohl (they/them, she/her)
Jo Pohl is a staff attorney in MIRC’s Unaccompanied Children program, where they focus on representing children in long term foster care. Jo graduated from Michigan State College of Law in 2021. While attending law school Jo held several internship positions at Justice for Our Neighbors, the University of Michigan Human Trafficking Clinic, the Michigan Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence, the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children, and Legal Services of South Central Michigan. Additionally, Jo participated in various student organizations which represent interests they are passionate about, including the Lori E. Talsky Center for Human Rights of Women and Children and the Triangle Bar Association. Before their decision to pursue a legal career, Jo worked as a Refugee Resettlement Caseworker at Samaritas.
Joan Smith (she/her)
Joan Smith is the Legal Assistant to the Immigration Court Helpdesk program. She is based out of the Ypsilanti office, but primarily works at Immigration Court. Prior to MIRC, Joan taught ELL and GED classes to adults in Southwest Detroit. She also spent a year living and working at a migrant shelter in Guatemala, near the Mexican border. She loves language and language learning, and is near fluent in Spanish. She graduated from Loyola University of Chicago with Bachelor's degrees in Anthropology and French, and has a Master’s degree in Communication from Oakland University. She is committed to dismantling our violent immigration system.
Júlia Miyahara (she/her)
Júlia joined MIRC in 2023 as a Legal Assistant with the Immigration Court Helpdesk program. Being an immigrant from Brasil with Japanese grandparents, she is committed to standing in solidarity with all immigrants, especially those sidelined by the legal system. Júlia graduated with a B.A. in International Affairs from Eastern Michigan University, where she focused her studies in Latin American politics, human rights, and community-led development. After graduation, she collaborated on research for the non-profit International Samaritan and worked as a nanny. In her free time, Júlia enjoys reading, cooking with her friends, and doing nail art.
Juliana Hafner (she/her)
Supervising Program Coordinator
Juliana Hafner is a Supervising Program Coordinator on the UC Team in Kalamazoo. Originally from Colombia, she has a Bachelor's Degree in Psychology from La Pontificia Universidad Javeriana, Bogotá. Juliana has worked in the non-profit sector since 2016, first supporting the implementation of The Restorative Justice Approach in a juvenile detention facility in Colombia, later on providing preventional information about sexual abuse to preschools in low-income areas of Bogotá. Before her current role as a Legal Assistant, Juliana was the Director of Family and Youth Programs at El Concilio Kalamazoo.
Katie White (she/her)
Katherine White joined Michigan Immigrant Rights Center in May of 2021. Previously, Katherine founded Immigrant Connection at City Life Church, a low-cost immigration law office, serving as the Executive Director and a Department of Justice Representative. She received her Juris Doctor from Western Michigan University Thomas M. Cooley Law School and holds a B.A. in Liberal Studies with an emphasis in Human Rights from Grand Valley State University. She is based in MIRC's Grand Rapids office and is fluent in Spanish.
Kelsey Kanthack (she/her)
Kelsey is a Staff Attorney at the Michigan Immigrant Right Center’s Kalamazoo office. She is originally from Chicago and moved to Michigan in 2013. Kelsey started with MIRC as an intern while completing her bachelor’s degree in Spanish and psychology at Western Michigan University. In 2020, she received her J.D. from Michigan State University College of Law.
Lauren LaLonde (she/her)
Supervising Program Coordinator
Lauren joined MIRC in January of 2022, and is a Supervising Program Coordinator for the Unaccompanied Children’s Team in Grand Rapids, MI. She recently graduated from Western Michigan University with a double major in Spanish and Political Science. She first worked at MIRC as an intern in 2018, before studying abroad for the following year in Cuba and New Zealand. Lauren is passionate about immigrant rights, and working to support immigrants in her community. In her free time, she enjoys traveling, reading, and skydiving. She is proficient in Spanish.
Leila Asadi (she/her)
Leila Asadi has an international law major, educated in Iran and the United States. She has done research and activism on Afghan refugee women and children in areas of education, physical and mental health and life skills in Iran. In the United States she has Syrian refugee women and their experience of the US asylum seeking process. Leila Asadi is interested on refugee rights advocacy and social and feminist movements in Iran and the US.
Lexi Andre (she/her)
Lexi Andre joined MIRC’s Unaccompanied Children’s Program as a Staff Attorney in May 2021. She received her J.D. from University of Michigan Law School where she served as a student attorney with the Human Trafficking Clinic and the Criminal Appellate Practice Clinic. She also interned for the Law Reform and Development Commission of Namibia, International Service for Human Rights, and the Family Law Project. Lexi also attended University of Michigan for her undergraduate degree in Classical Languages and Literatures with a minor in Medieval and Early Modern Studies.
Lilian Mann (she/her)
Intake Coordinator/Legal Assistant
Lilian was born and raised in Mexico. She completed her undergraduate in Public Relations at ITESO Guadalajara. She moved to the U.S. in 1996, since then Lilian has been involved with several nonprofit organizations that serve Refugees, Immigrants and people that have suffered from trauma. She is fluent in English and Spanish and is passionate about helping others.
Lisset Najera (she/her)
Lisset is a legal assistant for our Unaccompanied Children’s Program in the Ypsilanti Office. Originally from Mexico City, Mexico, she is a compassionate youth’s advocate and parent educator with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology. Lisset has facilitated individual and group workshops to educate caregivers on child development and cultivating positive, respectful and intentional parent-child relationships. As part of her role, she is committed to promote culturally-sensitive trauma-informed practices and its application for the care of immigrant and refugee youth and their families.
Lizzette Ruiz (she/her)
Supervising Program Coordinator
Lizzette joined the Michigan Immigrants Rights Center in January 2020 as a bilingual legal assistant working specifically with unaccompanied children in Long Term Foster Care, and is now a Supervising Program Coordinator on the same team. Lizzette is a California native, born and raised in Los Angeles, who’s parents immigrated from Mexico and El Salvador. She is dedicated to advocating for immigrant rights, and mental health. Lizzette worked many years providing interpretation services for the Latinx community in Michigan courts and it’s partnering agencies like the Children’s Assessment Center. She is state certified as a Judicial Interpreter for the Spanish language and recently became certified in Mental Health First Aid.
Magid Shaibi (he/him)
Magid Shaibi is a Law Graduate with the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center’s Unaccompanied Children’s team in Ypsilanti. Magid studied Criminal Justice at the University of Michigan-Dearborn and earned his law degree from The University of Toledo College of Law.
Maria Garcia (she/her)
Maria Garcia is an Intake Coordinator with the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center as part of the Washtenaw, Intake, Kalamazoo, Detroit Front Door (WIKD) team. She was born and raised in Southwest Detroit. Maria recently received her B.A. from the University of Michigan, where she studied Political Science and Latina/o Studies, as well as double minoring in Asian Studies and Gender, Race, & Nation. Maria has a passion for immigrant rights and social justice issues and her goal is to one day become an immigration attorney.
Mariana Santos (she/her)
Paralegal/DOJ Accredited Representative
Mariana Santos is a Paralegal for Unaccompanied Refugee Minors on the Unaccompanied Children Team in Grand Rapids. She recently graduated from Aquinas College with a Bachelor's degree in Political Science and a minor in legal studies. Mariana was born in the Grand Rapids, but was brought up in the Wyoming area. Mariana has always had a passion for immigrant rights and social justice issues. She has been dedicated to helping out the community by interning at Immigrant Connection at City Life Church in GR and served as a Diversity Assistant during her time at Aquinas. Her goal is to eventually become an immigration attorney herself. Mariana is also a Department of Justice (DOJ) Accredited Representative.
Marianna Moynihan (they/them)
Community Resource Coordinator
Marianna Moynihan is pioneering the newly-created role of Community Resource Coordinator. Marianna completed their Masters of Social Work with emphasis in Policy and Political Social Work in 2021 from the University of Michigan. With their prior experience in mental health, housing, and general social work fields, they are looking forward to ensuring the success of this new position.